In Biblical times, dill was regarded as valuable enough to use as payment for taxes. Today dill is a popular plant in the garden. Its fragrant bright green foliage and yellow flowers make an attractive display, and it has umpteen culinary and medicinal uses.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is from the Apiaceae family. This is the same plant family as carrots. Dill is a slender plant that grows to sixteen to twenty-four inches. The leaves are thin, bright green to bluish-green, and feathery. Small, yellow flowers grow in umbrella-like clusters at the end of long stalks.
Dill is an annual plant that dies off during winter. A permanent dill garden can be cultivated by allowing some dill flowers to seed and propagate new plants in spring. Dill plants do best in full sunlight throughout the day.
Strong winds easily damage dill plants, so they should be planted in a sheltered area of the garden. They are not frost-tolerant and die during winter. They grow best in well-drained soil that falls just into the acidic pH spectrum.
There are several varieties of dill which differ in their size and the color and breadth of their leaves. Several plants look like dill.
- Wild fennel
- False dill (dog fennel)
- Absinthe wormwood
Cumin (Cumin cyminum) is a flowering plant from the Apiaceae family – the same as dill and carrots. Its leaves are narrow and closely resemble dill plant leaves. Although cumin plants look similar to dill, they are slightly smaller, only twelve to twenty inches tall.
The stem of cumin is grey to green, and the thin leaves are green to purple. The flowers are usually pink or white, but some varieties have yellow or lilac flowers. The flowers form in umbrella-like clusters known as umbels.
Cumin enjoys long hot summers and grows best in sandy or loamy soils with good drainage. Cumin plants are vulnerable to fungal infections in moist conditions. They are drought-tolerant but must be sheltered from frost and wind. Different kinds of cumin produce seeds with different colors and tastes.
2. Wild Fennel
Wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is also known as sweet fennel, common fennel, garden fennel, and large fennel. It belongs to the Apiaceae plant family and is related to dill. Gardeners warn that dill and fennel are so closely related that they should not be planted next to each other. Cross-pollination can occur between the two plants.
Wild fennel, like dill, has soft, feathery foliage. It is usually larger than dill, growing to six feet tall. Clusters of small yellow flowers grow in umbels. Fennel is perennial, and although it may die down during winter, it will reappear in spring. Fennel is easily identified by its strong smell, similar to licorice or anise.
Fennel was originally native to Europe and Eurasia but has become naturalized to North America and Australia. It grows best in sandy or loamy soil with good drainage. Fennel quickly populates disturbed soil and can be seen growing on the sides of roads.
Fennel is an attractive aromatic garden plant suitable as a backdrop plant in flower beds. It is widely used in cuisines around the world. Fennel has many medicinal uses, including as a slimming tonic as chewing the seeds allays hunger pangs.
3. False Dill (Dog Fennel)
False dill is also known as dog fennel or false fennel. Its Latin name is Eupatorium capillifolium. Dog fennel belongs to the daisy family, which goes by the Latin name Asteraceae. The seeds are spread by wind pollination, and false dill can become invasive and difficult to eradicate.
Like dill and fennel, false dill has small, narrow leaves arranged around a stem. The leaves are bright green and have serrations giving a feathery appearance. The plant has a sour, musty smell which increases when it is crushed.
The stems are hairy, but the leaves are hairless. False dill stems are soft and green when the plant is young. They become tough and woody as the plant matures. Wild dill is often regarded as a weed, and the tough stem makes it difficult to remove by hand.
False dill is sometimes used as an ornamental plant by gardeners. It can be six inches to three feet tall, depending on the growing conditions. This plant grows best in well-drained, moist soil. It is usually planted in full sun, but it needs partial or afternoon shade in hot climates. False dill is toxic and can cause serious liver damage. It is essential to identify the differences between false dill, dill, and fennel as they are easily confused.
4. Absinthe Wormwood
Absinthe wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) is part of the Asteraceae or daisy plant family. It is also known as grand wormwood or mugwort. It grows naturally in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. Absinthe wormwood has become naturalized in many parts of the USA and Canada.
Absinthe wormwood is one of 8 Types of Groundhog Resistant Plants.
Absinthe wormwood foliage is silvery grey-green on the upper surface and white on the underside. The deeply serrated leaves grow in a spiral around the stem. Like dill, absinthe wormwood has yellow flowers that bloom from early summer to late in the fall months.
Absinthe wormwood grows in a variety of soils but prefers nitrogen-rich well-drained soil. It may stunt other plants’ growth and should be planted cautiously in flower beds or alongside other plants. Absinthe wormwood is a hardy plant that thrives in full sun to partial shade.
Anise goes by the Latin name Pimpinella anisum and is sometimes called aniseed. Like dill, it belongs to the family Apiaceae. It is found as a native plant in Egypt and the eastern regions of the Mediterranean. Anise is an important food source for many butterflies and moths.
Anise has green leaves with many divisions creating a feathery look to the foliage. Small white or yellow flowers occur as dense umbels. Anise plants grow to approximately three feet tall. They are annual plants that grow best in well-drained fertile soil in areas where they receive more than six hours of full sun daily.
Anise is cultivated throughout many parts of the world for use in foods and medicines. It has a strong licorice flavor and scent. Anise is used in sweets, pastries, bread, cookies, cheese, and many traditional dishes. It not only adds flavor but acts as a preservative and antioxidant. Anise essential oil is used in several alcoholic liqueurs. It also forms the basis for many perfumes and soaps.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) belongs to the Asteraceae or daisy family. It is sometimes called Estragon. It was originally a native plant of Southern Europe but its home range spread, and it is currently found in Siberia, Southern Asia, and North America. Tarragon is a perennial herb, greatly prized for its culinary and medical uses.
Tarragon has narrow, glossy green leaves. French tarragon has darker green leaves than the Russian variety. Small sprays of yellow flowers are produced in summer. The plant grows to three to four feet in height. Russian tarragon is usually taller than the French variety.
Russian tarragon is an extremely hardy cold-resistant plant that grows well in any soil, including sandy, nutrient-poor soil. French tarragon does better in fertile soil and is more sensitive to the cold. It needs a warm, dry position in the garden and protection during winter.
French tarragon is extremely difficult to grow from seeds. It is best to propagate French tarragon from cuttings or buy a plant from a nursery. Russian tarragon grows easily from seeds that are produced copiously on the plants. Tarragon is susceptible to mildew, rust, and fungal disease.